The interest in social media is set to increase in 2009 with Facebook growing to about 175 million users and the popularity of twitter increasing at a rapid pace with about 6 millions users now active. Companies are now rushing to get on board the social bus in order to gain maximum exposure for their brand. Most use it incorrectly, not because they don’t necessarily understand the concept but a lack of resources prevents them from spending 6 hours a day engaging in all the different touch points and they opt for short cuts.
When a piece of interesting content is released online it can now be picked up and passed on in a number of ways. Someone can tweet it, blog about it, send it via facebook, stick it on propeller, digg it, add it to delicous and if its a blog post, this effect is multiplied with hubs such as MyBlogLog and blogcatalog allowing users to leave feedback on there rather than on the actual site that produced the content. This is a lot of places to lose external links to. Users can now engage with your content in way that doesn’t require them to link back or add a blog comment related to that post.
Most search engine optimisation strategies now encompass some form of social media to build one way links. But how much effort is required to really engage with the online community to build such links. The blogosphere in Ireland can be extremely quick to point out when a company breaks the unwritten social rules. The attacks on these companies can be viscous and what started as an attempt to build some link love can often turn into a PR nightmare. This can often leave companies longing for days when they simply had to exchange links, comment on blogs and submit to directories.
There is no doubt Social Media is also taking up a lot more real estate on the SERP’s. Google is literally camping out on Web2.0 properties like Squidoo, Hub pages, Web paint, justin.tv etc indexing new content on those sites extremely quickly. If you want to find out what Web2.0 properties are most popular with Google at any time, you can usually look to see what the most aggressive SEO guys in the market are doing. Just look to see what properties are ranking for keyphrases like “buy viagra” ;). But along with Universal search, the top 10 results are starting to be squeezed even more.
So should social media really be considered a big part of your SEO strategy. Well it really depends on the market you operate in and the goals you want to achieve. Engaging in social media to garner one way links is not a new seo concept. People have been using community marketing for many years to engage with groups in forums and drop links via their signatures. But in my opinion social media in a lot of ways is difficult to quantify. Ok, so a company may have a 1000 twitter followers. Well what does this mean. A lot of people on Twitter will follow anyone to get their own count up. They may have 1000 Facebook friends but again, what does this mean. At the end of the day, it’s how *all* traffic converts, which must be measured. Social media appears to me as a lot of work at times for minimal rewards (again dependent on the market you are in).
To quote Aaron Wall “There is plenty of time for digital sharecropping and being someone else’s user generated content after retirement. I am going to cut back on social media for the next year or two…its not worth the effort. It builds no real value. It wastes opportunity. It wastes links. It wastes life. :)”